When Melodic Death Metal took off in the late 90s like a bat out of hell, there were many bands that popped up that probably didn’t deserve the recognition. But this oversaturation made it hard to find those diamond gems of the newer bands too, like the ever vigilant NIGHTRAGE. Their debut album, “Sweet Vengeance” is still one of my favorite Melodic Death albums ever and I have been a die hard fan since then.
Many fans did criticize the band when they moved in a more modern direction on their last album, “A New Disease Is Born” (I loved it to be honest with all of you!) so all of those critics will be pleased to hear NIGHTRAGE’s fourth studio release, “Wearing A Martyr’s Crown”, is a return to that solid Gothenburg sound that they used on their first two releases. Even though I loved their third album, I must admit it was nice to hear the band get back to their roots on this one as it was one of the reasons why I fell in love with them in the first place.
Considering that NIGHTRAGE is essentially ‘the Mario Iliopoulos project’ and he is the only remaining founding member, and ironically, the only member in the band that was around before 2007, this album still remains largely within that sound he has created. The never ending melodies from the two guitarists that overlay riffs and other melodies are what make “Wearing A Martyr’s Crown” a truly unique experience. It seems like no matter what, there is always some sort of guitar lead or sick solo there (okay maybe not always considering some songs do carry over that more modern take like the bass and drum opening to the title track) and whether it be electric or acoustic guitar they make it catchy and memorable. I haven’t heard such good acoustic work placed in Death Metal since IN FLAMES’ “Whoracle” and that is a definite plus to keep the variety and song writing aspect of this album moving. Mario has come this time with all guns blazing.
I have to attribute a lot of this throwback sound to new singer Antony Hämäläinen. Replacing Jimmie Strimell, who went to work on his Pop/Metal act DEAD BY APRIL, Antony brings it all to the table on this one, and truly adds that Death Metal aspect nicely. He roars with the best and I would even compare his sound to that of original NIGHTRAGE singer and legend Tomas Lindburg. His gravely scream is complemented with some occasional singing during slow sections for a nice balance. Don’t worry elitists! The singing only appears a handful of times and lasts briefly even if it works nicely.
By the end of my listening experience of “Wearing A Martyr’s Crown” I was immensely pleased with the return of one my favorite Melodic Death Metal bands. This is their best album since their debut and it easily blows past their last two in terms of catchiness and solid song writing. This is going to be a must have for fans of the genre and a general great release (probably in my top 10 for 2009…we’ll see). Hopefully, this line-up retains for the next one too as this is the perhaps the strongest line-up Mario has seen in ages.
Songs to check out: “Shed The Blood”, “Wearing A Martyr’s Crown”, “Futile Tears”.
(Online July 17, 2009)